Saturday, 2 July 2016

Lets Look at G4S

Seen on Facebook:-

I'm in the NPS, but co-located with the CRC, our receptionist was a temp and asked to leave with 1 day's notice (rather than 1 week). I think our office will be "covered" by the existing CRC admin, think another office has G4S taking over reception... Is this happening in other offices? It seems to be happening quickly and unceremoniously.

Yes. Am in London & last week when I went to sign myself in (I too am NPS but share offices with CRC) & the security staff member said "did you know that as of tomorrow it will be G4S that provides your security?" I didn't know, & clearly he hadn't been given much warning....He didn't even know (not through his fault I might add) what, if any, the handover process was.


The following is a blog post on the Open Democracy website:- 

G4S: Don't blame us — blame the prison system

Throughout the criminal justice system, combinations of state bodies and voluntary sector organisations have increasingly been joined by private sector companies to manage and deliver services. Academics and activists have labelled this expanding marketplace as the “prison industrial complex”. Empty Cages Collective describe the prison industrial complex as not just prisons, but the “mutually reinforcing web of relationships, between and not limited to, for example, prisons, the probation service, the police, the courts, all the companies that profit from transporting, feeding and exploiting prisoners”.

Globally the prison industrial complex is a multi-billion pound industry that draws together private and government interests. It profits from using policing, prisons and punishment as a response to social, political and economic problems. It is a self-perpetuating system targeting the poor, people of colour and those most vulnerable to detainment, such as those experiencing mental health, drug or alcohol problems. It reinforces and recreates inequalities, ensuring there is an endless supply of people to feed into the criminal justice system. 

G4S: “Securing your world”

One of the private companies involved in the prison industrial complex is G4S, currently drawing international scrutiny as the employer of Florida shooter Omar Mateen who slaughtered 49 people in an LGBT night club on Sunday 12 June.

A company with more than 600,000 employees across 110 countries, G4S boasts that it is “securing your world”. Their website outlines the range of services they operate in the UK, including children’s services, custodial and detention, electronic monitoring, immigration and borders, policing support services and health.

G4S has drawn significant negative publicity and criticism over recent years. Throughout 2015/2016 there has been a steady flow of official reports and media exposés highlighting reasons to be concerned about the company’s services. In May 2015, Ofsted, the regulator for education and children’s services, released a report on Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre revealing that young people in the care of G4S were subjected to “racist comments”, “degrading treatment”, “while being cared for by staff who were under the influence of illegal drugs”.

In June 2015, it was revealed that the Ministry of Justice were still paying G4S and Serco to deliver electronic tagging, more than a year after they withdrew from such contracts after “overbilling”. In January 2016, a BBC Panorama documentary revealed serious abuse at Medway Secure Training Centre that led to the suspension and arrest of G4S staff. This was followed by an announcement in February that they would be withdrawing from youth justice services in the UK and US.

In May 2016 I attended the G4S Annual General Meeting as a shareholder, along with other members of the Reclaim Justice Network. This is the third consecutive year our members have attended. The goal was to ask the G4S board of directors about the company’s role in criminal justice services.

No electronic items were allowed into the meeting, making reporting of the questions and answers, difficult. There were a number of campaigners from War on Want and the BDS movements, among others, raising concerns about G4S’s services in Israel. What follows here is a summary of some of the questions raised by Reclaim Justice Network members in relation to G4S’s criminal justice operations in the UK.

The AGM took place at the Holiday Inn in Sutton. The room was lined by around twelve uniformed G4S security guards. The front row was packed with what seemed to be G4S staff. They were joined by various individuals in “plain clothes”, wearing badges marked with “Security”.

John Connolly, G4S’s Chairman, opened the meeting – offering a polite, yet strong warning that anyone who disrupted the meeting would be asked to stop and then asked to leave. During his opening remarks, people around the room took turns to chant “Action”, “Not words”. And “Shut”, “Them”, “All”, “Down”.

Medway & Rainsbrook

The first shareholder question was from a man representing a large pension fund with investments in G4S. He raised concerns about the use of excessive force as seen at Medway Secure Training Centre in an undercover BBC Panorama documentary. He asked whether such incidents would affect the value of investments and if it had directly impacted upon directors’ remuneration.

In response, John Connolly, who last year took £370,000 in fees and benefits in his part-time job as G4S chairman, said there was a “rigorous process” for assessing the senior management team. Ashley Almanza, the G4S chief executive, followed on, stating the contract had now come to an end after an agreement with the Ministry of Justice that it would not be extended.

Almanza, who took £2.5 million in pay and bonuses last year, said the BBC Panorama documentary had been “appalling” and “shocking”. He claimed there were “rigorous methods” for recruiting staff and it had been “deeply disappointing”. He defended the services in Medway and Rainsbrook secure training centres, pointing out both had achieved either “good” or “outstanding” inspections. Almanza said that lessons had been learned from Medway and shared across the whole prison estate.

One shareholder raised the issue of the restraint of children at Medway, as revealed by Panorama, and asked what G4S is doing to remedy the harms experienced. Almanza said that it was important to understand the distinction between restraint techniques developed and approved by government – and “individuals ignoring policy and training”.

He said that Medway offered a “learning point for everyone involved and across the UK”, as after Panorama’s revelations, “methods have changed”. Almanza said that G4S want to work with the government to improve safety and mentioned the trialing of body-worn cameras.

In later questioning Almanza also emphasised that the company had withdrawn from all “juvenile custody” services in both the UK and USA. He was asked a number of times for clarification on the reasons for this withdrawal but seemed reluctant to offer a direct response — or accept any connection to the incidents at Medway. He eventually said that the company wants to focus on areas they believe they can do the “best job” to “benefit our shareholders”.

The board was asked if there were any other outstanding and undisclosed investigations into the behaviour of staff in relation to the treatment of children and young people in secure training centres and children’s homes. Almanza said that he was not aware of any “government investigations”.

The shareholder asked again, whether G4S knew of any ongoing and undisclosed investigations into G4S staff behaviour towards children. Almanza responded that it was difficult to say given the number of people they are dealing with and can’t necessarily be aware of all incidents.

The shareholder again asked for confirmation: “So, to be clear, shareholders are unlikely to hear further revelations about this kind of thing?” He said that a “hotline” has been set up for staff to report any concerning behaviour, but as this is a new process, he did not have figures. On 8 June 2016, just a couple of weeks after Almanza’s response, a statement from G4S confirmed that five more G4S staff from Medway STC had been charged by Kent police.

Not G4S prisons, just run by G4S

A question was posed on the right to life, on self-harm and self-inflicted deaths in G4S prisons. A shareholder highlighted that 6 people had died in HMP Altcourse and in 2013 there were more than 900 recorded incidents of self-harm. The shareholder asked whether this “tragic pattern” indicated a failure in the duty of care for human beings.

Almanza emphasised that these are not G4S prisons, and that they are owned by the Ministry of Justice. “G4S runs them,” he said, “with oversight from government”. Almanza said that self-harm and deaths in custody are experienced across the prison estate. He said that all members of the board have visited G4S run prisons, and boasted that “you as shareholders would be impressed by the way staff run the prisons”. They are “difficult environments” to work in and he emphasised the “skill of staff”. Almanza said the company will look to continue to reduce self-harm in prisons.

The same shareholder then detailed how at a public meeting in February 2016, attended by around 80 people, they had heard a G4S prison custody officer detailing the alleged response by staff to a prisoner who had attempted to take their own life by burning themselves through lighting matches around their clothing. Almanza asked for “evidence”. He said “our facilities are inspected continuously” and said the shareholder had “made a serious allegation” – “provide us with evidence and we will investigate”.

The shareholder in question, Dr David Scott, spoke to Ashley Almanza and John Connolly after the meeting. They invited him to put his concerns in writing which he did so the same week. He is yet to receive a reply, but you can read his letter here. It eloquently outlines very important issues relating to G4S commitment to human rights. Scott also asks that “G4S undertake a thorough investigation into the treatment and response of staff to prisoners who self-harm, experience mental health problems and / or experience or have acted upon suicidal ideation”.

Electronic tags and 'overbilling'

The questioning then moved onto electronic monitoring and G4S overbilling the Ministry of Justice. Almanza said it was important to understand that electronic monitoring services covered the “tracking of products and goods”. He said they will continue to offer it for prisoners as well as for goods and look for new markets. I didn’t note the exact wording but I remember feeling very uncomfortable at the implication that prisoners were simply “goods” to be tracked and monitored.

Human rights

One shareholder highlighted G4S’s claim to be a leading company when it came to human rights. She asked what assurances the Board could provide that human rights and civil liberties are a priority — and asked what individual members of the Board are specifically doing to protect human rights and civil liberties.

Clare Spottiswoode (a non executive director and chair of the G4S Corporate Social Responsibility Committee who takes £81,500 per year for her part-time G4S job) was invited to respond by John Connolly. She said that “human rights are central to our work” and that the company aims to “spread good human rights work wherever we go”.

Shareholder, David Scott who had raised a number of questions about the company’s commitment and record on human rights, asked whether G4S could guarantee a focus on human rights in next year’s annual report. Almost two hours into the meeting, John Connolly, said yes, they would take that as a recommendation from the meeting and consider conducting a human rights audit.

After two hours of shareholder questions, the chairman then attempted to bring the meeting to a close. At this point a number of shareholders, who had largely posed questions on G4S’s role in Israel, began to shout and disrupt the proceedings. One by one, people were dragged out by the G4S security staff.

The first person removed from the meeting was a man shouting “shut down Yarl’s Wood” — referring to the notorious Bedfordshire detention centre run by Serco where G4S has provided health service since September 2014. Following him, a woman in the process of being carried from the room had some of her clothes pulled from her body. Two other women who objected to this were escorted out. Another man was then dragged out, grabbing empty chairs as they removed him while shouting “you are all complicit in the worst human rights violations”.

As the chairman read out the resolutions to be voted on, we could all clearly hear the same 
man chanting “G4S, shame on you” from outside the door.

Who is to blame?

The meeting was enlightening and frustrating. Clear answers were rarely provided by G4S to what were very direct questions from shareholders. The chairman, John Connolly, referred nearly all questions to Ashley Almanza. With the exception of Clare Spottiswoode, the rest of the board sat in almost complete silence. Staring at the room or down at their paperwork, I couldn’t work out whether this was boredom or embarrassment. They certainly appeared uncomfortable. When a shareholder challenged them on this — asking why no one else on the Board was asking questions — they continued to sit in silence.

The key message from Almanza on questions relating to safety in prisons, deaths in custody, self-harm and the use of restraint was that they are part of wider problems in the criminal justice system. On one level, he is right — prisons are damaging institutions, no matter who runs them. However, it also felt like he was trying to avoid responsibility and evade blame for a catalogue of serious issues raised by shareholders.

This prison industrial complex captures people. It punishes them. It damages people, their families and communities. It spits them back out. G4S and other companies are complicit in this – they do the dirty work of government whilst turning a profit. People are not “goods” to be transported, imprisoned and monitored.


  1. My God this is shocking. Your depiction of that meeting brings to mind some kind of mafia type leadership. And referance to human beings as 'products and goods'! Does that include the end product of deceased prisoners because we all know that suicide rates have gone through the roof. Human rights atrocities and a complete lack of humanity. Blatant cover ups and lies. We desperately need to put humanity at the heart of running prisons and probation.current private sector have no interest in public protection either, it is off the menu!

    1. Expect more of the same, and worse still. Gove & most tories (and many Labour MPs too) are fully committed to this type of service provision. Profit is prioritised over anything else.

    2. I am glad this has been published I had not seen it elsewhere and have signed up to support the Reclaim Justice organisation.

      I guess it is also why I have for the first time - because I fear the new direction of the Labour Party may be being brought to an end by the majority of its MPs - joined the Labour Party this week. I have also given a small contribution to Momentum.

      Such firms as G4S should not be allowed to have anything to do with UK Government contracts, I am not even happy with them being allowed to trade here when they seem to be involved in such poor criminal justices internationally as have been revealed about the Australian immigration detention camps.

  2. The 'acceptable'side of human trafficking? You would not condone a group locking people up, assaulting and verbally abusing them, keeping them in solitary for long stretches and innoring their deteriorating mental state, allowing them to take harmful drugs! Unless they have a government contract and shareholders. Then it's ok! Shame on the government and shareholders!

  3. Below is a copy of a letter sent to Ashley Almanza, G4S Chief Executive Officer and John Connolly, Chair of the G4S Board of Directors by Dr David Scott on Friday 27th May 2016 following a discussion with themselves and other board members at the close of the 2016 G4S AGM.

    Dear Ashley and John,

    I am writing to you following our conversation at the G4S Annual General Meeting [AGM] on the 26th May 2016. Our discussions focused on ethics and human rights. The G4S 2015 Annual Report and Accounts emphasises the values underscoring the company as an “ethical organisation” (G4S, 2016a, page 20) and the 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report [CSR] highlights the “G4S ethics code” (G4s, 2016b,page 32) and its commitment to “an open approach to addressing human rights issues” (page 29). In the two hours of questions at the AGM this year, however, nearly every question focussed on the failure of G4S to meet such commitments. In this letter I would briefly like to highlight three specific points regarding this commitment to human rights and offer some ways in which you could work towards enhancing this.

    My first point concerns the manner of the removal of peaceful protestors from the AGM. For example, in one case the shirt of a women protestor was ripped by G4S guards and afterwards she had marks on her arms. The reputation of G4S is not well served through such treatment. It is imperative that G4S find a more human rights compliant way of responding to such democratic encounters in the future.

    My second point is more substantial. During the AGM I highlighted the ‘human rights leitmotif’ expressed in the meeting and suggested that G4S undertake a ‘human rights audit’ of their work. This suggestion was accepted as a recommendation by the chair. Such a human rights audit should expand upon the current understanding of human rights in the 2015 CSR report. On page 20 of the 2015 CSR Report it is stated that “our respect for human rights is core to the sustainable success of our business and continue to be an important part of our risk assessment and mitigation process.” The language of human rights means more than ’business risks’ and should be understood as a commitment to legal covenants and arising ethical responsibilities. Most notably human rights entail the recognition of the inherent human dignity of other human beings and a culture of respect. G4S would benefit enormously from an independent review drawing upon a range of external experts in the field of human rights.

    I would also encourage G4S to cultivate an aspiration, from top downwards, of becoming a world leader in the promotion of human rights. This means striving to not only meet human rights standards but to also transform the organisational culture so that the G4S slogan of ‘securing the world’ becomes synonymous with the protection of human dignity. The scope of your human rights audit could then entail local and global action plans on how human rights policies and outcomes can be enhanced; human rights training of staff and how good practice in recognition of the dignity of others can be best rewarded; the development of human rights champions within different parts of the organisation to create cultural change and the formation of a new ‘Human Rights Committee’ dedicated to promoting human rights governance; a strengthening of the ‘speak out’ whistle-blower policy documenting human rights violations across the organisation, its subcontractors and other partners; and open, democratic and transparent processes which allow the voices of staff, service users, shareholders and other stakeholders to be heard in way that is compliant with respect and dignity.

    1. My third point relates to existing practice in HMP Altcourse, Liverpool, regarding the treatment of prisoners who have attempted to take their own lives. Six prisoners have died at the prison since 2013, including the high profile deaths of Connor Smith and Andrew Bain, and there were 900 reported incidents of self-harm in 2013, up from 290 in 2009. At the AGM it was noted that self-harm figures in prisons run by G4S are now to be included in annual reports. I welcome this announcement. There is, however, a tragic pattern emerging of a significant failure of the duty of care. Lessons need to be learnt from such terrible events to ensure the safety and well-being of all those currently being held in the care of G4S. At one public meeting in Liverpool, attended by myself and more than 80 other people in February 2016, a prison custody officer detailed the alleged response of other staff to a prisoner who attempted to take their own life at HMP Altcourse. The allegation is that a prisoner who attempted to burn themselves alive by lighting matches in their clothing was mocked by prison custody officers. This is a serious allegation and I would like to request that G4S undertake a thorough investigation into the treatment and response of staff to prisoners who self-harm, experience mental health problems and / or experience or have acted upon suicidal ideation. Here I think G4S would benefit from engaging with experts in the field, such as INQUEST, who can work with you to help you identify new policies and practices that meet the requirements of human rights covenants and aspirations.

      I look forward to learning more about this at the AGM next year.


  4. These organisations could not get away with abusive treatment if the government did not allow them to. This government does not care about people only profit.

  5. A conversation overheard in my head:

    "It reminds one of the bond we have with other royal dyNasties, e.g. the United Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One is very clear that when geological, geographical & other imperial resources are exhausted, one must exploit every other available avenue. My government will do this in my name ad nauseaum, so long as one receives a suitable percentage."

  6. 6 months ago I highlighted on this blog a War on Want email I rec'd about the cruelties of G4S around the world - 'G4S has long been complicit in the abuse of vulnerable people across the globe. Whether it's supporting Israeli apartheid, abusing children in detention centres or exploiting crises caused by wars, G4S continues to rake in the profits with little regard for human rights.

    Desmond Tutu and various famous celebrities, writers and activists were calling on G4S to end its contract with Israel's prison authorities and War on Want was asking people to support this by signing a petition .

    To quote '100s of Palestinians are being held in detention and subjected to torture and abuse. G4S provides systems and equipment for Israeli prisons at which human rights organisations such as Addameer, have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners.

    Through its involvement in Israel's prison system, G4S is complicit in violations of international law and participates in Israel's use of mass incarceration as a means of dissuading Palestinians from protesting against Israel's systematic human rights abuses.'

    G4S did pull out of their involvement in Israel's prisons some time after that,coincidentally after the widespread publicity about their greedy, shady, immoral involvement in human cruelty. But they remain complicit in human ill-treatment and torture in Britain. It is about time they are given the treatment they deserve, and got rid.

  7. I have no faith tbat the current government will do anything to address this. If there is a major incident they might pull them out of a particular prison but that is all. They don't want to hinder the free market economy! One day however when there is a change of government there will be an enquiry and the full truth will come out just as the truth is going to come out with the chilcott report.

    1. Wonder what price will be placed upon the BlairCriminal's head on 6 July? Maybe we coukd throw a bone to Dog the Bounty Hunter?

    2. You must have the same taste in TV as my husband! Maybe Dog the bounty hunter and his wife will be the next to take over working links when aurelius maximus get bored!